Pavement managers expect a modern pavement management system to enable maintenance and repair planning, routing, and reporting – among other things. There are a lot of steps in setting up a new pavement management system, and among the most time-consuming is answering the question, “How do we organize the pavement?”
The First Steps of Pavement Management
One of the first steps in establishing a pavement management system is to decide on a logical grouping for maintenance and repair management. Then you can identify the pavement networks and sections of pavement within. Networks are organized by factors like the type of facility, funding source, and geographic location. Branches have a distinct use and are easy to identify, like a parking lot or “South Oak Street.”
Sections are the bite-sized chunks that maintenance managers can use to do their jobs. Because branches rarely have the same properties throughout the entire set of their assets, branches are broken into sections. The segment is another name for these sections. Segments can have one or more assets related to them in a linear-reference-based asset management system, and represent a non-branching line, or a path that goes from point A to point B.
The Seven Factors of Pavement Management
For even a small city, breaking networks and branches into sections is a chore. There are a lot of different factors that can be used to organize pavement sections. Based on the types of maintenance and repair activities that pavement management systems support, here are seven factors you can use when identifying pavement sections:
1. Traffic. Pavement structure is chosen to meet goals based on the traffic that it must bear. Consider defining sections of pavement with consistent traffic volume and load throughout. Is this section of traffic particularly busy during rush hour? Does it coincide with several school zones, prompting off-hour traffic jams? Is it a high-traffic zone for larger, heavier trucks? Are there conflicting traffic patterns? This can be incredibly important when dealing with “spaghetti junctions.”
2. Structure. The structure of the pavement is high on this list because the level of maintenance and maintenance activities are usually a direct result of construction materials and core thickness. As mentioned above about heavy vehicles, load ratings can be used to divide pavement into discrete groups. Is the road asphalt, concrete, or another composite structure?
3. Condition. The environmental factors and stresses placed on the pavement should be considered when grouping pavement sections. Maintenance activities are designed to prevent or repair distress, and pavement distress reports can be used as the basis for separating pavement into high and low-risk sections, for example. By identifying high-risk sections an organization can deliver needed resources more effectively and more proactively, saving money in the long term by avoiding or preventing costly downtime.
4. Construction History. Pavement is built over time by many different teams, contractors, techniques, and materials. Sections are a good way to group these based on the different points in time at which the pavement was built. When making major changes or repairs to the pavement, divide those areas into sections, shrinking or adjusting adjacent sections if necessary.
5. Drainage. If drainage has a substantial impact on the pavement’s performance, then the type and extent of drainage should be consistent along a section. The same guideline goes for shoulder construction and composition. If this is a high-flood area, special care should be taken to construct and maintain parallel drains. In addition, these areas may require periodic visual maintenance to ensure the drains are not clogged with debris.
6. Pavement Rank. The pavement’s classification is usually based on some kind of traffic plan, but sometimes that plan changes, such as an arterial road being revised into a collector road, or a 4-lane collector road being converted to 2 lanes. This classification should be consistent along the length of the section.
7. Size. Sizing sections is a balancing act: short sections require more effort (cost) to define, but yield more uniform results while defining larger sections means more work is required later on to normalize data for comparison purposes. The type of pavement can influence the size of sections. Highway sections might be longer, such as one mile, for example.
If you are faced with a large pavement inventory and a new pavement management system, the good news is that you are not alone: other people have felt your pain. Let these seven factors help you start thinking about your pavement management journey. What factors will help you break your pavement into bite-sized chunks that you can use for maintenance planning, routing, and reporting?